Composting For Dummies
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Although a simple compost pile will certainly give you nice, rich organic matter for your garden and keep your food waste out of landfills, it isn't always the best option. In some situations, it makes more sense to compost in a container.

Acceptable landscape aesthetics vary widely by individual, neighborhood, and community standards. If you're fortunate to live where local government encourages home composting to reduce solid waste sent to landfills, you may be surrounded by supportive neighbors who also compost.

On the other hand, you may be surrounded by those who are less enthusiastic and don't want to see your mounds of organic matter from their backyard or windows. Using containers that hide organic matter with fully enclosed sides or containers that you can tuck discretely into out-of-view locations forestalls potential complaints.

Other good reasons to employ containers in your composting efforts include the following:

  • Containers keep your stockpiles of dried materials, such as leaves, straw, and sawdust, under control until you need them. Without some type of holding unit, your carefully collected ingredients might end up scattered around the yard the next time a mighty wind blows through.

  • Keeping kitchen scraps in and pests out is another important benefit offered by containers that are completely enclosed and feature secure lids..

  • When it comes to efficient composting, maintaining the overall size and shape of your original pile of ingredients is easier within the confines of containers. When compost materials have sufficient mass (at least 1 cubic yard), they're better able to self-insulate to maintain consistent moisture levels and higher temperatures, conditions that speed decomposition.

  • Fully enclosed bins help organic matter retain moisture, a characteristic that's useful if you live in an arid climate. Decomposition slows down when the compost pile dries out.

  • If you live in a rainy climate, enclosed bins keep heavy rains from soaking organic matter. Wet piles turn anaerobic and smelly.

  • Some bins offer insulating qualities that help increase and maintain higher temperatures inside.

About This Article

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Cathy Cromell is a writer and editor who's written extensively about gardening and landscaping. She is a certified master gardener, master composter, and master entomologist. The National Gardening Association is the leading garden-based educational nonprofit organization in the United States, providing resources at and

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